Artful Land Care

Posts Tagged ‘Land’

Bent Gate

In Landscape on October 31, 2018 at 11:59 am

After a fairly lengthy conversation with a Forest Ranger—not to obtain my qualifications as much, I imagine, as too many experiences with folk who believe nature something to spank rather than love—and looking over a number of maps, I left with a hand drawn map over the top of one of those free giveaway maps noting established campgrounds and services.  With some effort, a thank God mile-post marker, a careful eye for a gate with a bent middle rail along a barbed fence line, I opened the gate, drove through, and closed the gate behind me.  A short drive and I settled on a gravel bar beside the John Day river.

Last light had already left the water.  Enough time and light though, to pull out a chair, a book, and read as day faded into evening.  A few stone throws up river, rough water quieted as the river widen, slowed, and became thoughtful.  Reading doesn’t lend to much noise making.  River life takes little notice of a bank sitter.  Fish who’d settled into the drowsy stretch of water nipped the water surface as the air cooled only to strike hard and break surface as last light left the river canyon.

Three mallards, a drake and two hens, flew up the river’s centerline, locked up and made a river landing just up river of rough water. After some time, they bounced down river swinging around one rock then another as if the rough water was a private roller-coaster.

Across the river, basalt held up the western ridge.  Basalt sluffed rock in the steep areas and allowed shallow-rooted grasses on her slopes.  Firs and pines strutted green against the tan and golden grasses at the base of a draw.  As the ducks moved on down river two horses silently moved out of the firs eating long dead grasses.  As evening darkened they side-hilled the rivers five maybe eight-foot cut bank and nosed water.  They lost little time once they had their fill and disappeared beyond the pines into the draw.

One the eastern ridge elk bugled from one draw or another.  Evening gave way to night.  Latent light holds the darkest of blue above the western ridge with no hard line between it and the black of night above.  In that time where blue knows black and a name is just another word, the coyotes yowl.  Starting up river the chorus of individuals and packs move down river until voices surround the gravel bar, the chair, and the book laid down some time before.

As two, maybe three geese—better ears than mine could say in the dark—pass by heading up river.  Time for fire, its light, a touch of whisky, and supper.

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Standing Rock 2018

In YCM on June 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm

I’ve known about the Mandan people for more time than most westerners west of the Rockies.  Mostly because I married into a North Dakota family.  As one might suspect my knowledge was rather lacking as a white non-Native marrying into a white non-Native family. Of course my schooling was lacking in the Nativeness of the landscape as well.  My education was better than many, I figure, because my junior and high school years were the years of the Red Power movement.  Not only did I have access to nightly news events: Occupation of Alcatraz Island 1969-71, Wounded Knee incident 1973, but I went to a fairly progressive High school for the era that allowed for an edgy curriculum that include Native American studies.  Once I get to the bottom of it though, I knew nothing of indigenous history by the time I graduated High School.

Since last Saturday I have been hanging with a number of High School students in North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Reservation where Dakota and Lakota (mostly) people live.  The reservation itself is a small piece of what was once the Great Sioux Reservation, which went through a great reduction after gold was found in the Black Hills in the early 1870’s—enough of that though, typical history can be looked up.  I find myself on the reservation because of two people, Laurie Pound-Feille and Bill Spangler-Dunning.  Read the rest of this entry »

Willow

In Poetry on May 13, 2018 at 10:00 am

 

Rooted willow stands outside
Front window.  Morning twilight.
Neither light nor dark.

Black trunk and branches
Rise. Sillohetted against the
Dark light blue sky.

Small branches wing out.
Tips loose themselves in
Lighted dark blue sky.

Willow without one leaf
On one branch.  Rooted
Lightly in dark ground.

 

Of Spring and Dandelion

In Seasons on April 15, 2018 at 10:00 am

Wait for the right moment: Length of day.  Temperature.  A drenching spring rain.  Two days. From the ground they spring, abundantly, with fortitude.  Their numbers shout, no-matter-what-you-do we will out populate your work and survive and win.

Prior to rain, one rises, here and there, and tells all who’ll listen of what is soon to transpire.  Rain turns prophesy to reality.  By the hundreds dandelions are everywhere.  The abundance of flower is such that it is impossible not step upon one during a morning walk across a dew watered field.  Their abundance changes the spring greenscape into a landsky of yellow stars.

Dandelions fill the valley, but true abundance comes in the place of disturbance.  Native ground allows seed to settle and have life here and there.  However, pastures and hay fields where soil is opened by hoof and harrow sanctions exceptional seed to soil contact.  The yellow of hundreds of pasture dandelions extinguishes all doubt winter is of yesterday and spring is of now.

Being a wholly edible plant, one would think the dandelion virtuous and desirable.  Perhaps it is our local food store privilege.  Perhaps it is simple laziness.  Perhaps it is desire for an immaculate monoculture green lawn. Whatever the reason, the yellow dandelion flower raises the ire of many.

No ire for the goat though.  Dandelions are a goat’s plant of wonder.  Entering a pasture after dandelion flowers have risen is a goat moment not unlike that of a child spilling their candy upon the floor after a Halloween outing.  Such good life is unbelievable.  Such good fortune!  The low-lying flower is especially theirs.  While sheep will eat dandelion, they have little enthusiasm for its bitter leaf. The low lying character of the dandelion holds little interest for cattle because the distance between nose and teeth is greater than the height of flower and leaf.  But for the goat.  This is the flower of the gods…mmmm.

The spring dandelion is a bold reminder of life after a long winter.  The audaciousness of the lion’s yellow tooth smile beside its gift of total edibleness brings vivacity to sight and belly.  Winter is gone.  Spring has come.  With the pluckiness that comes with others thinking it a lowly weed, the dandelion is nothing if not confident enough to sidle up beside the daffodil and claim William Wordsworth’s poem, I wandered lonely as a cloud, as its own.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils

Water Holes

In Reflections on February 12, 2017 at 9:00 am

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“A man that travels horseback needs to remember where the water holes are, but a man that rides in a train can forget about water holes, because trains don’t drink.”  Woodrow Call on attributing Charles Goodnight’s bad memory to his riding of trains—from Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry]

I returned to the rental car after having supper.  Belinda and I were visiting her mother.  Though we knew this landscape well some thirty-five years ago, the population is three times greater today.  My landmarks are gone, so I chose to use the GPS on my phone to get us to the restaurant.  As we loaded in the car after supper, I pulled out my phone to use the GPS to get us home.  I tried to do that without bringing attention to myself—I didn’t want to admit I had only listened to computer spoke directions and hadn’t paid attention to how I got there.  However, my mother-in-law is not one to let much go and way too attentive.  She asked, “What are you getting that out for?,” with that smirky smile she saves for when she knows she’s got you.

“I need it to get back home,” I said.  That gave her the fodder she was looking for.  From parking lot to home, I was on the receiving end of ribbing concerning phones and a society that no longer knows how to pay attention to the world around them.  I looked in the rearview mirror a few times, but Belinda gave no shrift either, she smiled and laughed all the way home. My ribs hurt by the time we got back.  Not so much from the poking, but because I agreed.

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A few days of good mountain weather opened up toward the end of the summer.  I grabbed hiking gear and headed to the Goat Rock backcountry.  While Mount Rainer and Phato get most of the attention from the lowlands, the Goat Rocks are a dynamic, assessable land that speaks to the everyday.  The Pacific Crest trail gives wonderful mountain(s) views around one bend or another, but off trial you are sure to run into elk, mountain goats, and more than a chipmunk or two.  One never has to go far from the trail though to find an outcropping view of a lower valley that gives the feeling the Creator made this place just for you. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tussle of Blankets

In Reflections, Theology on January 1, 2017 at 5:03 pm

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A dozen folk journey this Tuesday to gather at water’s edge.  Each have their own “why” to stand on the Missouri River bank at the border of the Standing Rock Reservation.  Their whys are as broad as their ages—teens to seventies—walking an expanse of personal to spiritual.  As vast as those reasons are, the bedding of most are in Creational relationship.

When it comes to engaging the tussle of blankets under which Creation playfully crafts relationship and imagination, it is apparent we Church folk have failed to aspire high enough.  Rather than birthing wonder, we people of this era have segmented creation.  In that segmentation, we have separated ourselves from creational wonder in as real a way that the 1896 Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson segregated people.  Unlike our (great) grandfolk at the turn of the century who knew a deer track, the turn of soil, the back of a horse, walking a mile to visit a neighbor, or the location of the countryside’s water holes, our children seldom know the taste of dirt, and afternoon of catching pollywogs, or spending a night under the stars with only a sleeping bag.  When one losses the taste of dirt or the feel of a tadpole squiggling in hand, so do they lose the imagination and the revelation that one is not alone.

To lose the earths saltiness is to know loneliness and loss of community, which only leaves the air of individualism.  Mindsets settle into believing “I am the only one who can…” and the absolute need of neighbor is relegated off to some bygone era.

Life is much easier when putting the idea of rugged individualism off to the colonial settler rather than this era.  However the rugged individual was of books and folk lore, which served the power structure of government, business, and Church well.  But seldom true.  Rather than fools of individualism, settlers were families of communities.  However, their lives might have served the wealthy and powerful, they were not wholly unlike their ancestors or the people on whose land they were occupying—these folk were far from individualistic in nature. Read the rest of this entry »

Loosing Wildness

In Doctrine of Discovery, Theology on October 28, 2016 at 8:00 am

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If you were to go back two hundred and eleven years ago last Saturday (October 22) and stand on the bank of the Columbia River at Celilo Falls, you would watch hundreds of fishing families hoop-netting the salmon fall run.  Mid-day arrives and with your kin, you sit and eat in as unending mist rises from the falls turning waters.  The sound and constant mist is a wonder, but that wonder deepens as a group of folk portage the falls—the only place needing portage on this river of Canadian birth.  Word came weeks ago about these people headed by Lewis and Clark traveling west on the river.  However, you have lived long enough now to know what you hear, what you see, and what you experience seldom are a match.

Some two hundred miles upstream from the river’s mouth, these fishers are folk of subsistence. The falls are a natural barrier to returning salmon.  As more and more arrive on their journey to mate, lay eggs, and die in their spawning streams and creeks of birth, the pools below the falls fill.  As they leap and hurdle themselves ever forward over the falls toward embodied spawning grounds men with large hoop nets stand firmly on long-ago constructed family platforms pulling salmon from the river.  Youth gather fish and carry them to women who work carving meat away from bones and hanging it to dry.  Children help where they can, but most run about and play games as children do.  The value of those fishing, gathering, fileting, or drying is the same.  The work is natural work.  Honorable work.  The righteous work of community.

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Until the 1930’s, the Columbia did not know a dam. A century and a quarter after Lewis and Clark portaged around Celilo Falls, that all changed.  Read the rest of this entry »

Barn Siding

In Poetry on August 14, 2016 at 8:00 am

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rough sawn barn, non-linear
nails, batten-less boards grayed
by water and time

Sage Steppe Fence Post

In Poetry on June 26, 2016 at 8:00 am

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sentinel of sage and
cow, knows not fire
destruction, rather metamorphic wisdom

Red Insulator

In Chores, Landscape on June 19, 2016 at 8:57 am

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June 19, 2016 

Land identification does not change easily in rural landscapes.  When a farm, ranch, or corner store passes hands, folk continue to identify it in the name of the previous owner years beyond the exchange.

Ray’s place became part of the farm a few years ago.  The passing of land and its being used differently meant some fence lines would need to come down and other go up.  However, I found knowing my neighbor well, meant I felt out of place any time I was on soil that once was his.  Because of that, I’ve waited to remove and construct fences.  Eventually, however, the time came to get the work done.

H-braces hold fence lines taut and are the first features built.  Theses went up in the early spring.  A month later T-posts were driven and then wire stretched.  The fence is a five wire fence.  The top two wires are barbwire, the next is electric fence wire, the fourth barb, and the bottom electric.  The pattern works well for a cow and goat operation.  The barbwire keeps cows in place and the goats, who duck through the barbwire easily enough, are stopped by the electric wire.

Wire clips hold the barbwire to the fence posts.  Insulators hold the electric wire to the same posts.  I had a number of insulators on hand from pulling them off old posts; some from the farm and others from Ray’s place.

When working a neighbors place you are acutely aware they are never quite gone.  That has a lot to do with why locals call places by the last owner’s name—even if it has been decades since they last lived there, and why local folk know the land being fenced as the old Brown place.  Fair enough, the working sweat and blood of those people are embedded in the soil they lived and worked on all those years.  One does not need be the best listener in the world to hear those voices of work long after they have left the land. Read the rest of this entry »